Thursday, September 13, 2018

Retro Review: Elfquest #1 (1979) - "Fire and Flight"

Fly By Night Away From Here

Written by: Wendy and Richard Pini
Art by: Wendy Pini
Cover Price: $1.50 (Free to look at if you knew Randy Widmann)
Release Date: April 1, 1979

If you have listened to our podcast, you may be aware of my running joke about Elfquest.  Believe me, it's really about upsetting Eric and has nothing to do with this book or its creators.  In fact, Elfquest is a book that I've wanted to read since Randy Widmann showed it to me in 7th-grade homeroom over thirty years ago.  We were both into Dungeons and Dragons (Blue Expert Set) so he knew I'd certainly be into Elfquest.  He was probably right, but I want you to go back to the sentence with "Randy Widmann" in it and pay particular attention to one important word...Randy SHOWED Elfquest to me.  He didn't hand it to me, he didn't let me page through it, he didn't let me read it.  He showed me the cover and a couple of pages, but he would not let me get closer than a desk length away.  Why?  Because it was his older brother's comic and his older brother was a real asshole.  To tie this into our website, Chet from Weird Science always reminded me of Randy's brother, Ron.  Yes, he was that much of a dick.  So, Randy showed me Elfquest and told me how great it was, but I never got to read it...until now!  Whatever you guys do, don't tell Eric this story because I have so much fun getting him upset over Elfquest and it's creators, Wendy and Richard Pini.  I know that's a horrible thing to admit, but I'm a pretty horrible guy.  Now that we are in agreement on that fact, let's get on with my "Just for the Hell of it Monday" review of Elfquest #1 Fire and Flight.

Note:  This issue and so many more are available for free Here at the official Elfquest site.

The issue opens up with a savage human tribe readying a sacrifice to their god, Gotara.  However, before we go any further, we are presented with a brief history of this world...a history of Humans versus Elves.  The Pinis do a good job of setting up the human/elf conflict as being ages old and filled with hate, fear and anger.  In fact, it's continuing now with the sacrifice of the elf, Redlance.  Before it can go any further, however, Cutter and his band of Wolfriders spring into action.  There is an intense battle and while the elves rescue Redlance, human blood is shed.  Not good.

As far as heroes go, Cutter and his Wolfriders are pretty kickass.  We learn that Cutter (whose real name is Tam) has royal blood in his veins and will do anything to protect his tribe.  As we just saw, he also has a pretty hot temper. 

They take Redlace back to their home, called the Holt and while everything seems fine, it is short lived.  The Humans have a bit of a temper and follow the elves and set fire to the forest.  Cutter and the rest of the tribe are forced to do something nobody wants...they take refuge with the Trolls.

At this point, I was fully invested in the story and the characters.  The humans make great villains, being all human and all.  Come on, you know what I mean!  I already told you how much I love the Wolfriders, but I was also surprised with how much I loved the Trolls as well.  Maybe it's the D&D fan in me, but seeing the Trolls and their underground caverns was just so awesome to me.  Wendy Pini does a great job showing it all and I loved seeing the elves react to it as well.

After dealing with the funny Picknose, they gain audience with the Troll King, Greymung.  This is where Cutter's temper gets the best of him.  He forces the King to show them the way to a new home, but I'm not sure how he and the rest of the Wolfriders aren't aware they are all walking into a trap. They are escorted through deep tunnels (again by Picknose), but when they reach the end, it's not the type of home they were hoping for.  Things are going to get tough for the Wolfriders from here on out.

I really enjoyed this first issue.  It's a dark folk tale that any fan of myth (or D&D) will instantly fall in love with.  While I want to know so much more about Cutter and the Wolfriders, I enjoyed the background information we got this issue and the conflict Pini sets up is timeless.  I guess I can no longer joke around with Eric because from here on out, I will consider myself an Elfquest fan.

As far as the art goes, I am also a fan.  I read the original black and white book as well as the colored version.  I must say, I prefer the black and white.  It really shows the care and detail that Wendy Pini put into it.  I'm not sure about everybody out there, but the only thing that threw me off a bit was the lettering.  It's hand done and while it has a charm to it, it was the only thing that made the book look dated.  As a whole, however, I was impressed with the art, especially the character models which Wendy made so expressive.

Bits and Pieces:

While it took me a long while to get to it, consider me an Elfquest fan.  I want to learn everything about this world and it's inhabitants, especially Cutter and his Wolfriders.  The way the issue ends, I'm going to learn about their struggles as well.  There is a reason this book is considered a classic and while I'm sad it took me so long to find out for myself, I'm still so glad I did.  Highly recommended for anyone and everyone.


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